Jeren Kendall's two-run home run in the eighth inning snapped a 3-3 tie and proved to be the game-winner as No. 8 Vanderbilt upended Kentucky 7-3 Sunday.
A sun-bathed crowd of 3,043 at Cliff Hagan Stadium saw the defending national champions take the rubber match of a three-game Southeastern Conference series.
"I thought we battled really well," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "We didn't do enough things well to win the game, but I thought we competed really well. In fact, I thought we competed well all weekend."
The game marked a homecoming for Vandy starter Walker Buehler, a Henry Clay graduate and a projected first-round draft pick. The righthander worked six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits — four coming in the first inning, He struck out five and walked two.
All three Wildcat runs came on JaVon Shelby's first-inning home run.
"They got some good swings off, first couple hitters of the game," Buehler said. "And Shelby's a talented hitter. I think I've kind of known that since we were little. He got a hold of a pitch and took it out of the yard, but you've got to credit them."
Buehler settled down nicely from there.
The key was, he said, "locating my fastball, getting ahead in counts, I think. And the ability, behind in the counts, to throw a fastball that they foul off instead of hitting hard."
"I thought we did a good job in the first inning, coming out swinging the bats," Henderson said. "I thought we were aggressive. We took advantage of some balls that Walker left up. And then he got his concentration and his rhythm. He started mixing his pitches better and made it tough on us."
Vandy (35-14, 17-7 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the first on Zander Wiel's RBI double.
Shelby changed the score in a hurry, driving his seventh homer of the season over the left-field wall. Evan White and Ka'ai Tom, both of whom singled, scored ahead of Shelby.
"We kind of started off swinging pretty good, and he threw me a first-pitch curveball over the plate," Shelby said. "Over the past few at-bats this weekend, I kind of knew I was going to kind of double up on one, and hit it pretty well."
The Commodores tied the game in the third.
Ro Coleman, who doubled and took third on a wild pitch, scored on Dansby Swanson's groundout. Wiel followed with his 10th homer of the year.
That was all Wildcats starter Kyle Cody would give up in 52⁄3 innings of work. The righty gave us six hits, walked three and accounted for eight of UK's 13 strikeouts.
"Very nice to see Kyle back and doing the things we know he can do," Henderson said. "I thought he did a really good job. Lots of strikes, mixed in all three pitches. Really a very positive day for Kyle Cody."
Vandy loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. But Zach Strecker came in and got Bryan Reynolds to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Strecker (2-1) didn't fare as well in the eighth. Will Toffey singled, and Kendall followed up with his first homer.
UK (26-20, 11-12) put two on with one out in the bottom of the inning.
But Vandy went to the bullpen, with Kyle Wright getting a strikeout and Ben Bowden inducing a groundout.
The Commodores added two runs in the ninth.
Next up for UK is a Wednesday home game against Louisville. U of L rallied to edge UK 2-1 in 10 innings last week.
"We've got to get revenge on those Cards," Shelby said. "We kind of gave that one to them, so we'll be ready for this upcoming week against Louisville and Georgia."